Improving the voting experience of the U.S. presidential election

Concept. Service blueprint

Project duration: November 2022 - February 2023
My responsibilities: discovery, user journey mapping, user research, service blueprint design
My approach: I focused on understanding the voting process and then continued by creating personas/archetypes and designing a service blueprint.

Background

The U.S. presidential election is an interesting phenomenon for a European citizen. It is also a reminder that elections are a user experience problem that can impact the end result in multiple ways.

1. Ballot design could potentially flipp the results

2. Elections can be confusing for some voters

The U.S. is a republic of states that all have their own processes and rules, there’s little consistency from one place to another.

Based on the Pew Research Center 23% of registered voters say voting in elections is confusing and 18% say it is not convenient.

3. Voter turnout could be increased

More than 158.4 million people voted in that election, amounting to 62.8% of people of voting age. When comparing turnout among the voting-age population in the 2020 presidential election against recent national elections in 49 other countries, the U.S. ranks 31st – between Colombia and Greece.

Discovery

I decided to map the U.S. general election process by creating a service blueprint, identifying pain points and ideas or possible solutions which could improve voters' experience.

To understand the most common problems a voter can face, I did online research to create a list of themes, potential pain points, and improvement ideas.

Going through tons of articles, forums, and other research allowed to identify all relevant information. A lot of manual effort went into categorizing the data and turn that into meaningful themes.

Opened paper notepad with a list of themes and issues.

Soon, it became apparent that similar problems appear across the themes and I decided to group them.

Yellow post-its divided into themes: political system and parties, voting, society, money, fraud.

Service blueprint preparation.
Paper version

Every eligible voter can choose from a few voting options which he or she needs to decide:

I chose to map the journey of a voter who registered to vote in person on Election Day.

The user journey creation is the starting point which will show the average experience of a U.S. voter.

Large sheet of paper with a lot of post-its on it.

I added touchpoints and other supporting elements and mapped the responsibilities of poll workers, local election offices and state representatives.

A paper version of the service blueprint on the floor with a lot of post-its on it.

First digital version

After a few rounds of reviews of the paper version, I created a digital version of the service blueprint in Figma.

Preview of the service blueprint with user journey on the top.

Since the user journey map mostly shows the theoretical steps, I conducted a user research to learn more about voters and refine the user journey based on my learnings.

User research

It was difficult to recruit participants for interviews so a Google form with open-ended questions was needed to collect voter opinions. At the beginning of January, I started to recruit participants in LinkedIn and on Facebook groups.

I appreciated that people were willing to share their opinions. In the end, I was able to reach mainly voters who voted in up to three elections in total. All of them know the registration process and most of them have some experience with in-person voting.

How do they behave during voting and what do they think?

Lickert scale graph with opinions of the voters/ users who were willing to fill in the Google form.

I also asked questions about the voting preparations and feelings about the voting process. Each color represents one voter.

Opinions of voters based on themes: preparation on voting, something they bring to the polling place, fixing the voting process, feelings about the voting.

User archetypes

I created two archetypes to understand the user's needs.

Enthusiastic beginner

Behaviors:
voted from one to three times,
doesn’t feel well when he or she receives an assistance which leads to an biased approach (e.g. skipping the line),
doesn’t vote on all the issues on the ballot sometimes.

Feelings:
great, satisfied, fun

Voting felt great and so did lying to my mother that I'd vote for her geriatric conservative ghoul of a candidate.

A digital black and white illustration of a guy who is smiling and looks satisfied.

Unexcited expert

Behaviors:
voted more than three times already,
some of them think the voting does not matter,
would like to make the process easier.

Feelings:
meh, angry, neutral

Make the voting actually matter.

A digital black and white illustraion of a woman who looks a bit annoyed.

Changing the user journey

I changed the user journey based on what I learned from the users...

A user journey with a lot of notes written around each step.
... and created a new user journey.
A new user journey: Gets the motivation to vote - Reseraches the candidates and political parties - Investigates the registration due date - Fills in and submit the registration form - Receives the sample ballot - Finds the polling place - Goes to the polling place - Shows ID there and receives the ballot - Votes - Leaves the polling place - Discovers the result.

Then I also integrated the new user journey into the service blueprint.

See the service blueprint in Figma

Reflection

The two biggest challenges were getting familiar with all the information about U.S. elections and then finding participants for the user research.

Designing the questionnaire was trickier than expected because there are a lot of question that can be asked but a long form would probably discourage people from answering them.

It would be interesting to ask follow up questions to the users but the online forms have their limitations.

Answers from the user research showed that people do not think about practical problems but about issues which are highlighted in media.

Observing people go through the election steps would help identify additional pain points and inspire new ideas to adjust the user journey. If I were located in the U.S., I would observe users instead of using online questionnaires.